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Obama puts Syria on the agenda for confab with leaders

The administration’s effort to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels will be on the agenda, when congressional leaders meet with President Obama on Friday, according to the Senate’s top Republican.

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“That’s one of the things the president mentioned today is going to be on his agenda at our luncheon Friday, sort of where we are and what recommendations he may have to make about the way forward,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHouse votes to condemn Chinese government over Hong Kong 15 Senate Republicans pledge to oppose lifting earmark ban It's not 'woketivism,' it's good business MORE (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday during a post-election news conference.

Obama on Tuesday invited a bipartisan delegation to the White House to discuss the path forward in the wake of the midterm election results, in which Democrats suffered defeats nationwide and lost control of the Senate.

The Syria effort, which would arm and train 5,000 fighters vetted by the administration, is one of the pillars in the administration’s fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Congress approved the initiative in a stopgap spending measure before the elections, but the authority is set to expire in December. 

McConnell said lawmakers “insisted on that terminating at the end of this year, so we could have a new discussion with the administration about sort of where the administration sees the battle against ISIS.”

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby on Tuesday said the administration has made headway on the training effort.

“There's progress in setting up the curriculum. There's progress in getting the sites ready. There's progress in getting trainers contributed to the effort, not just from the United States, but from other nations,” Kirby said.

However, “the vetting process has not begun yet. There's still some additional work that needs to be done,” according to Kirby.

He said Pentagon officials were “mindful of the importance” of getting the program established and running.